Ed McMahon was proof that someone who doesn’t sing, dance, act, play a musical instrument, juggle, or look like a matinee idol can go to Hollywood and become a megastar. He did it by playing second fiddle to Johnny Carson for thirty years. And when I say he became a megastar, I’m not exaggerating. He got his star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, hosted one of the most popular shows on television (Star Search, the forerunner of American Idol), and became one of America’s most recognized and trusted pitch men. In one year alone he made millions as a spokesman for 37 different banks and a host of major corporations.*
Ed McMahon serves as a reminder that support people fill an important role and can reap many benefits if they accept their role and do their jobs well. Sadly, there are countless Christians who chafe at the notion of serving unless they can be center stage and in the spotlight.
I’ve known singers who pouted because they didn’t get to sing the big solo in the Easter Cantata. I’ve known church members who felt offended because they did a little job and no one praised them from the pulpit. I’ve known preachers who were always sending their resumes to larger, more prestigious congregations. Did you know that in 9 out of 10 churches someone has to be paid to clean the toilets because no one will volunteer?
Reminds me of the time Mrs. Zebedee asked Jesus if her two sons, James and John, could sit next to him in heaven, which, of course, would be as close to the spotlight as they could get. I picture Jesus sighing internally so as not to embarrass her, taking a deep breath, and then tactfully explaining what every Christian needs to know and remember, that in his Kingdom greatness is achieved not by position or privilege, but through humble service. Specifically, he said that whoever wants to be first must become a slave. (Matthew 20:27)
So let’s hear it for the Toilet Brush Brigade, those second fiddle players in every church who never jockey for position, never worry about where the spotlight is pointing, and never, ever whine when no one brags on them. Such people are the true backbone of the church, the source of countless blessings that routinely go unnoticed but would be sorely missed if we suddenly had to live without them.
Because of their aversion to the spotlight, you might not know who these people are right now. But you’ll know when you get to heaven. They’ll be the ones at the front of the line.
For further reflection read Proverbs 29:23, Isaiah 29:19.
Lawrence Leamer, King of the Night (New York: William Morrow, 1989), 394